Biden asking Congress for more Ukraine aid, power to seize Russian oligarchs’ assets

President Biden speaking to journalists on Air Force One on Friday. (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

President Biden will ask Congress on Thursday for billions of additional dollars to support Ukraine in its defense from Russia’s invasion and for the authority to make it easier to seize and sell the assets of Russian oligarchs.

Biden, who is scheduled to speak from the White House at 7:45 am Pacific, will be asking lawmakers to make it a crime for a person to “knowingly or intentionally possess proceeds directly obtained from corrupt dealings with the Russian government,” double the statutes of limitations for foreign money laundering offenses to 10 years, and expand the definition of “racketeering” under US law to include efforts to evade sanctions.

The president will also ask Congress to allow the federal government to use the proceeds from selling the seized assets of sanctioned Russian oligarchs to help the people of Ukraine, a measure lawmakers from both parties have called for.

The latest White House push to broaden its support for Ukraine follows Biden’s announcement earlier this month of $1.6 billion in new defense aid, a tranche that included offensive weapons — howitzers, drones and helicopters — that Ukraine’s military desperately needs as the conflict shifts to a brutal ground battle in the country’s eastern Donbas region. And it comes just days after Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III traveled to Kyiv and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The willing increasingness of the US and other NATO allies to heavily arm Ukraine marks a clear strategic shift away from the war’s initial phase, when allies had been more hesitant to send weapons and munitions that Russian President Vladimir Putin might view as an escalation.

In recent days, Moscow has reiterated threats that it may resort to more direct attacks against the West if it continues its support of Ukraine but those threats have not deterred the US and other allies.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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